Shedding

IMG_3920 edit.jpgThere was no buck in sight that sub-zero evening, but he didn’t need to be there.  His story was written as clearly across the January ground as though he’d penned a tale and published it.

Heart-shaped hoof prints studded the powdery snow helter-skelter.  This deer had been doing more than just passing by.

The brittle yellow cornstalks nearby were ripped up and broken off.  This deer had been doing more than nibbling on remnants of the past fall’s corn cobs.

I didn’t fully understand the saga, however, until I’d walked a few steps further and saw something lying on the snow.  I might have overlooked it for a stick had I been in the forest, but out in the middle of a field, far from any tree, it stood out like a sore thumb.  So this was the meaning of all the ruckus!

The antler had fallen off so recently that was even still a tiny bit of red blood at the base.

The other was not to be found in the near vicinity.  My imagination filled in the blanks: perhaps the first one had fallen off easily a while ago, but this one had stubbornly hung on, half off, half on, loose and bothersome and catching on everything like a snagged fingernail.  In a fit of annoyance, he’d thrashed his head against the cornstalks.  Tonight, that young buck was enjoying the newfound freedom of a head free of at least one loose, annoying antler.

I imagined that his jubilation mirrored that of my six-year-old’s this afternoon when she finally summoned the bravery to pluck out an uncomfortably wiggly baby tooth that had stubbornly refused to fall out on its own.

Freedom!  Oh, the sweet relief.

A dear friend recently gave me a stone with that same word, “Freedom”, engraved on it.  Or rather, she asked me to, without looking, draw out of a basket full of stones engraved with many words and see what word I got—and this was it.  The word didn’t resonate with me strongly at first, but knowing that she had prayed for the word to have meaning for me, I continued to mull it over for several days—and it was out there in the swiftly falling dusk, with the bitter wind rattling the cornstalks and a lone spike antler at my feet, that I understood what it meant for me personally.

It was not a reminder of the freedoms that I already enjoyed, as I had at first thought, but an invitation to the freedoms that I still needed to experience.  Freedom from the things weighing me down, the things encumbering me, holding me back, dragging me down.  I’m not talking about people or things or other outward tangible things; I’m talking about inner bondages and burdens of the heart.

Perhaps you have a few of those, too?  Perhaps a hurt feeling, too long nursed. Perhaps a bit of jealousy, a secret wish for malice, harbored anger.  Perhaps some sense of entitlement, some need for control, some lie of worthlessness.  Perhaps some disappointment you haven’t accepted.  Perhaps some hidden fear or shame, eating away.IMG_3922 edit.jpgThen this word carved on this stone is for you, too.  It’s an invitation to break free of that inner thing that is dragging you down, to muster the courage to let go, to summon the strength that is yours to claim in Christ and bravely lay aside.  Shed it like a useless old antler, like an outgrown baby tooth.  Drop it on the ground, throw it in the garbage—and leave it there.  Then walk on, without looking back, into the fullness of freedom Christ longs for you to experience.

“Therefore…let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1)

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery.” (Galations 5:1)

“…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

“Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36)

 

Whitetail Buck

IMG_2411.JPGIt should be noted that, since there is no hunting season on shooting photographs, I generally secure my photographic venison on whatever random day of the year and in whatever random location (such as my flower garden) it presents itself.

I actually took this one’s portrait back in July, when his antlers were still velvety knobs—but since it’s Hunting Season, which is as good as a national holiday in this neighborhood, it seemed like an appropriate time to join the fun and talk about the deer I “shot” this year, too.  I suppose that the fellow above would hardly be considered a trophy, but like most hunters, I also find that the bucks are elusive and capturing one, however short his antlers may be, is something worth celebrating.

He was foolish enough to pause before bounding off with a woof, so he is literally my first buck, at least so far as I can tell for sureIMG_2413See?  There he went, after that long curious look, finally deciding to flee the lady with the giant black eye.  He will, however, have to call upon more wariness than that if he doesn’t wish to be caught by his foolish hesitation and end up in small packages in someone’s deep freeze within the next couple weeks!

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12)

Twins

IMG_1076It was almost as good as Yellowstone National Park when a bear is sighted along the road.

The cars were lining up.  The phone cameras were clicking.  People were leaning out their windows, smiling big.  Nobody was out of their vehicles snapping closeups while foolishly ignoring the unpredictability of wildlife (aka a protective mama doe), but I won’t deny that I considered it.  (But did you see the look in her eyes up there?  That was pretty much enough to keep my hand off the car door handle and be satisfied with just rolling the window down.)

And these two tiny fawns, so new they were still wobbly, stood at the edge of the highway bracing their ungainly long legs and staring at their audience in wonder.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the first time they had ever seen cars or humans, let alone been on an outing.

Awww!

IMG_1074Mama hovered nervously in the woods nearby, snorting, stamping worriedly.  They bleated back like tiny lambs as if to say, “Whatchya so worried about, Mom?  See?  These people like us.”

And it was true.  Cause, well, you know, for all the tulips I’ve ever suffered the loss of to other members of their species (it happened again this year, ahem!), how can you not be utterly charmed by a newborn baby fawn—especially when there are two of them staring at you with their big, innocent dark eyes at the same time?

Who cares about tulips, anyway.

“Do you observe the calving of the deer?  Can you count the months they fulfill, or do you know the time they give birth?  They kneel down, they bring forth their young, they get rid of their labor pains.  Their offspring become strong, they grow up in the open field; they leave and do not return to them.” (Job 39:1-4)

 

Baby Time

IMG_4726.JPGThis week, our resident swan pair debuted their newest brood of offspring, parading them very proudly all the way around the lake (for all the neighbors to see, I presume).  There are six cygnets, which might be their all-time record for family size!

There is a shy doe at the edge of the field, who acts very nervous whenever we come near.  I know there’s a tiny fawn hiding in the swampy raspberry thicket beyond where she lingers, though we have yet to actually see him.

After three known unsuccessful attempts (including inside the exhaust pipe of my husband’s truck), last year’s swallows have finally settled on a place to build a new nest.  Incidentally, it’s in the exact same place as they built the last one.  Silly birds.

A mother rabbit went bounding off from my parent’s garden when I was visiting there earlier this week, scared by the dog.  She left this wee cutie, with brown eyes almost as big as his ears, crouched obediently close to the ground.  He didn’t move a muscle, even when I took this picture:IMG_4752.JPGIt’s been baby time everywhere we look outside lately—and then, finally, at 6:45, just after the pearly gray dawn of a Wednesday morning, it was our turn.

A tiny baby voice cried out for the first time in the little house on the edge of a lake, while outside in the gentle rain the swan family paddled softly through the lily pads in search of breakfast and the swallows twittered busily around their almost-finished nest.

A woman has pain in childbirth because her time has come; but when she brings forth her child, she forgets her anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” (John 16:21)

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Praise the Lord!

A Place to Still Your Heart

icy water dropletSometimes, in all the wonderful hustle and bustle that December can be, it’s good to take a walk alone in the woods to listen to the stillness…

to quietly admire the strange and wonderful effects of melting and freezing snow and ice…ice on branchto be startled and then delighted when a deer goes leaping across the trail mere feet in front of you…IMG_1714 editto stand and watch the late afternoon sun glint through bits of ice on twiggy branches, like hundreds of cut glass ornaments hung for Christmas…ice on twigsto deeply breathe in crisp cold air and be glad for warm new mittens…IMG_1776

and, as the still permeates your soul, to think about the One who said to “be still and know that I am God”,

the Prince of Peace whose purpose was to bring ultimate and perfect peace on earth, whose first humble coming to earth we will celebrate very soon—and be glad.

And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace…to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.”  (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Sometimes in the midst of the busyness, it takes something as far removed from the tinsel and packages as a woodland cathedral robed in winter white, where no instrument plays but the wind whispering through the branches and no voices speak but those of chickadees and squirrels—

to bring your heart back where it needs to be.

Always Be Ready

doe nursing fawn / rejoicing hillsfawn / rejoicing hillsPhotographing wildlife is all about three essential things:  1) being in the right place, 2) at the right time, 3) with a camera in hand.  Any two components without the third = no picture.  I must admit that the times when I’ve had all three work out at once have been rare.  But they’ve been all the more exciting as a result—and these two photos are some of my favorite examples.

If you look closely at the first photo, you’ll see it’s really an action shot—that’s a pretty mama doe nursing her fawn, eyeing me warily even across the field.  This was shot from my car window, on a day when I just randomly happened to have my camera in the seat right next to me.

And the second photo was a breathtaking close-up chance encounter in a wild raspberry bramble.  I was out walking, camera in hand for a wildflower shoot, and came upon this little one’s mama suddenly, sending her leaping frightened off into the woods.  This little guy was probably not more than a day old, still wobbly on his feet, but he followed the instructions she left to the letter:  he dropped to the ground and didn’t move a muscle even when I stepped a little bit closer to take his portrait.

The lesson here is that one should always be ready for the unexpected.

As in, never leave the house without a camera.

Or in other vastly more important ways like this:

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  (Matthew 24:44)

(For more information and instructions on how to be ready for Him, read the whole chapter and the following one as well!)